Early this morning news broke that a Seattle Times investigation had turned up accusations of inappropriate workplace conduct against Mariners CEO and President Kevin Mather, former Executive Vice President Bob Aylward, and former President Chuck Armstrong. Additionally, inappropriate footage of two female fans was found to be shot and saved by camera operators at Safeco Field.
The report, compiled by Times staff reporters Geoff Baker and Mike Baker, covers three complaints levied at the aforementioned Mariners’ executives which occurred in 2009 and 2010. The complaints involved inappropriate comments, unwanted physical contact and, in Aylward’s case, viewing pop-up porn images when asked to help with a frozen computer. None of the accusations went to trial, and each of the women received a confidential financial settlement. Tellingly, all three employees who filed complaints left the organization shortly thereafter, while Mather, Aylward, and Armstrong all remain or willfully retired later on.
In response to these accusations, Howard Lincoln ordered the team’s chief legal counsel and HR Senior Vice President to “conduct private interview one by one with female employees...One former employee interviewed said they wanted to know whether she had been harassed or had witnessed inappropriate behavior by ‘senior level executives’ through touching, verbal come-ons or off-color jokes. The employee said she told the pair she had not witnessed such behavior.” After the interviews, Lincoln hired workplace consultant J. Tucker Miller, who conducted employee training “heavily focused on sexual harassment.” The sessions ended in 2010, though Miller was brought back a few years later to lead a “refresher course” on sexual harassment.
The Times’ report also uncovered footage of two female fans at Safeco Field, shot in late 2015. One of the clip features two women talking with people around them (in what the Times describes as “a revealing top,” at which point I would like to clarify that their attire in this clip is not significant, and that women should feel comfortable wearing whatever they’d like to the ballpark, or otherwise), while other footage shows two occasions when a woman’s dress briefly exposed her. Another clip shows the woman “apparently passed out in her seat, receiving attention from medical personnel.”
Per the report, and the Mariners subsequent statement,
“The clips referenced in the story are from a security incident that occurred at our game on September 29, 2015, which ultimately involved paramedics and other personnel. The video was shot by freelance camera operators working on the television broadcast, not Mariners employees. The clips were shared with our Director of Security to help in the investigation of the incident. Our forensic investigation found no evidence of improper sharing of any similar files with employees or others, which would be against Mariners policies.”
In the same statement, Mather, the only one of the accused who is still working within the organization, takes “full responsibility” for his actions.
The report itself is flawed, but it should be clarified that finding fault with the article does not absolve the subjects. Women deserve to feel comfortable in their workplace, and to attend sporting events without fear that they will be filmed (unknowingly) in an objectifying manner.
It is deeply problematic that we’re only learning about these accusations nearly a decade after the fact. It is frustrating that the violating footage of the two female fans, a wildly different type of incident that does not appear to have been satisfactorily resolved, was included in this report and not as a separate article. Most importantly, however, it is utterly unacceptable that women were harassed in their place of work, and filmed intimately without their knowledge.
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